After seeking treatment for his son’s Asperger’s, Dr. Murphy stumbled upon relief that may impact millions of lives
Imagine returning from combat and the trauma of war and finding yourself continually isolated from civilian life, embattled in the despair of self-medication and unwanted addictions. For many of our service members, this is a familiar reality, and the hopelessness is compounded by ineffective medical and behavioral therapies.
A beaming light of hope is finally breaking through. Dr. Kevin T. Murphy, Vice Chair and Professor of the Department of Radiation Medicine & Applied Sciences at the University of California, San Diego, is using repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) to treat some of the most severe cases of neuro-dysfunction: PTSD, autism, eating disorders, depression, anxiety, TBI’s, and more. This particular form of rTMS called, Magnetic Resonance Therapy (MRT), has shown a breakthrough in response due to the personalized way in which it is administered. Patients first undergo a quantitative electroencephalogram (qEEG), and a “resonance frequency” specific to the patient is identified. This particular frequency, is then non-invasively administered to the brain at a prescribed location along the scalp, constituting a breakthrough in results not previously seen with typical rTMS. But how does it work? Due to a number of different medical reasons and neuro-traumas, various regions of our brain begin running on different frequencies rather than on the same frequency. This lack of synchrony or “coherence” creates an electrical imbalance, and function is ultimately impaired. MRT restores the imbalance in a phenomenon termed “neuromodulation”. The brain is essentially set back on tune, the way an orchestra begins to play in harmony.
Originally, intrigued by the promise of MRT for the treatment of his own son, Jack, who is on the autism spectrum, Dr. Murphy quickly realized the profound way in which this therapy could impact the lives of many. As a veteran of the US Navy, Dr. Murphy subsequently began testing the effectiveness of MRT on patients suffering from PTSD. Clinical trials with some of the most severe cases of PTSD proved that not only was MRT effective, but the results appeared dramatic after only two weeks of treatment. Months of patient follow-up exams and neurocognitive tests have also shown that the clinical results are durable. “What began as a personal mission to help my son, has really opened my eyes to a technology that I believe is going to have a massive influence in the way we as a society will be addressing neurocognitive disorders in the future,” says Dr Murphy. “This technology was created and has been honed by a group of brilliant researchers and scientists at the Newport Brain Research Lab (NBRL), in Newport Beach, California. Dr Xi Jin and his team have revolutionized the field of neuroscience with these breakthroughs in understanding the brain….the results I’m experiencing, are shocking,” says Murphy.
Making Treatment Accessible: Current clinical trials are limited by funding and patient population. While it is possible for individuals to receive out-of-pocket treatment, it is expensive and patients must wait on a long waiting list. Dr. Murphy and his team hope to expand the availability of treatment to more patients and thus impact more lives.
Peers Provide Treatment: Frequently after patients have received treatment under Dr. Murphy’s direction, they are so inspired that they want to help deliver treatment. Despite its profound effectiveness, the process of MRT treatment delivery is a relatively simple medical procedure, allowing patients to eventually become therapists. For instance, on any given day, during a walk through the lab, you may witness chemotherapy patients receiving treatment from cancer survivors or military vets happily encouraging other vets. One Navy Seal shows the level of support he has felt from his MRT treatment as he encourages others saying, “At one point, you were magnificent. You can be magnificent again.”
Non-Invasive and Effective: MRT is safe, easy to deliver, targeted, and non-invasive. Therefore, in comparison to other invasive treatments, MRT is a novel option. Additionally, it has been recorded that some patients find relief almost immediately after receiving their first treatment. A patient undergoing chemotherapy who recently began using MRT explained, “I think this would change a lot of people’s lives. My young son even noticed that I was feeling better right after my first treatment!”
Personalized Therapy for the Future: By relying on a qEEG prior to choosing which areas of the brain to stimulate, Dr. Murphy’s team is able to target only the areas of the brain that are in need of stimulation. Therefore, each patient’s therapeutic regimen is personalized to their own qEEG reading. These qEEG’s are repeated during the course of treatment and the patient’s “resonance frequency” is slightly adjusted or fine tuned. Dr. Murphy envisions MRT will be used side-by-side with existing forms of behavioral and occupational therapy, thereby increasing the effectiveness of both.
One Treatment, Many Patients: Dr. Murphy’s studies have quickly expanded beyond treating autism and PTSD. In fact, MRT has been used to successfully treat eating disorders, traumatic brain injury (TBI’s), symptoms of menopause, side-effects of chemotherapy, anxiety, depression, irritable bowel syndrome, dependency, cerebral palsy and more.
Born and raised in San Diego, California, Dr. Murphy graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 1989 with a B.S. in Biological Sciences and a second major in Philosophy.
Following graduation, Dr. Murphy served in the United States Navy as an Engineering Officer aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ranger. He then received his M.S. in Neurophysiology from Purdue University and his M.D. from the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Medicine. Following Medical School, Dr. Murphy completed his Radiation Oncology Residency in the Department of Radiation and Cellular Oncology at the University of Chicago. In May 2005, he was recruited to the Department of Radiation Oncology at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD).
After his son, Jack, was born and subsequently diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, Dr. Murphy and his wife searched for therapeutics that would enable them to help their son. He reflects on a time of helplessness early on saying, “I was the director of the brain and pediatrics program, and yet, I couldn’t help by own son.” By harnessing their frustrations into the hope of achieving some sort of relief, Dr. Murphy learned about MRT, a kinder and gentler approach than some of the other therapeutics available. Quickly after receiving his first treatment, Jack was able to make sustained eye contact with his parents for the first time, his ability to focus in the classroom improved exponentially, and tireless nights of no sleep for Jack, Dr. Murphy, and his wife came to an end. After seeing the dramatic shift in his son’s behaviors and the profound effect MRT had on his own family, Dr. Murphy decided to dedicate his time and energy towards expanding the availability to MRT to other families and patients that could benefit as he had.
Since the initial treatment of patients with autism, Dr. Murphy has expanded studies to include some of the most extreme cases of PTSD affecting retired US military personnel, patients with eating disorders, depression, and even addiction.
In addition to his efforts with MRT, Dr. Murphy serves as the Chief of the UCSD Pediatric Radiation Oncology Service and is an active member of the Children’s Oncology Group (COG), a national cooperative group focusing on the treatment of pediatric cancers. Dr. Murphy is a regional resource and primary radiation oncologist for Rady Children’s Hospital and Health Center, San Diego. His particular expertise is in the field of “radiosurgery” where he is considered a world expert, and shares his clinical experiences with locations throughout the world.
Aside from research, in his free time, Dr. Murphy enjoys spending time with his family, wife Lisa, daughter Ella, and his new relationship with his son, Jack.